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Merkel’s Coalition Government Faces Test Over Huawei Dispute

Posted by hkarner - 25. November 2019

Date: 24-11-2019
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Chancellor is in favor of allowing Huawei to supply components for Germany’s next-generation 5G internet

LEIPZIG, Germany—Chancellor Angela Merkel was handed a damaging defeat at her party’s annual convention over her plans to allow China’s Huawei Technologies Co. to build Germany’s next-generation 5G mobile network.

The dispute within Ms. Merkel’s party threatens to further destabilize Germany’s fragile coalition government ahead of the final decision on opening the 5G market to foreign bidders.

Ms. Merkel is in favor of allowing Huawei to supply components for Germany’s next-generation 5G internet, but rebels within her Christian Democrats tabled a motion Saturday demanding the exclusion of bidders from countries where governments could exert influence over private companies.

The motion, the authors of which said specifically targeted Huawei, also called for giving parliament a final say on the decision. It was adopted with a large majority despite bitter opposition from Ms. Merkel’s office, according to several senior officials.

“Germany’s digital nervous system must be secure and free of foreign influence,” read the motion tabled by over 80 officials of Ms. Merkel’s party. A condition for any provider, the motion read, is that their presence must not give any foreign state access to Germany’s 5G infrastructure.

Ms. Merkel’s former protégé and successor as party leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, supported the motion. She said no company that falls short of Germany’s security standards should be allowed to bid for the contract to build the network.

The development, which took place on the 14th anniversary of Ms. Merkel’s ascent to office, was among the worst defeats that had been inflicted on the chancellor by her own party, said Thorsten Benner, head of the Global Public Policy Institute, a Berlin think tank.

At the same time, a group of politicians from Ms. Merkel’s coalition partner, the Social Democrats, called for an effective ban of any Chinese company from participating in the 5G tender to become the official position of their party.

“We will not rest until this threat to our data security has been resolved,” said Niels Schmid, a Social Democrat legislator. A vote within the party’s parliamentary caucus could take place in the coming days, according to Mr. Schmid and other Social Democrats.

Ms. Merkel’s government had earlier this year decided against banning Huawei despite intense U.S. pressure, including threats to curb intelligence sharing. Aides to Ms. Merkel said the chancellor believed trade links to China, a rising superpower, were essential to secure Germany’s growth, especially at a time when the U.S. under the Trump administration was becoming a more assertive competitor.

But Norbert Röttgen, a senior conservative legislator who co-drafted the motion against Ms. Merkel’s Huawei policy, said no Chinese company could be trusted with the 5G network.

“When it comes to trust, no Chinese company is a private company: Chinese laws explicitly stipulate that companies must cooperate with the Chinese Secret Service. We cannot trust the Chinese state and the Chinese Communist Party with our 5G network,” Mr. Röttgen said.

If the rebellion gains a critical mass in the coming weeks, legislators from both parties could eventually push the government’s hand by amending existing laws in a way that would prevent Huawei from bidding.

A spokesman for Huawei said the company was confident it would be allowed to provide its services in Germany.

“We are confident that we have the best solutions for Europe, embedded in the highest standards of security,” the spokesman said.

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